Updated: January 2019
The volcanic island of Mauritius, located about 600 miles east of Madagascar, is one of the most popular tropical destinations in the Indian Ocean. Even though it is barely noticeable on a map, this country has some remarkable sights that will make you want to visit it on your next trip.
Surrounded by reef protected cobalt-blue seas and lined with white sand beaches, Mauritius is often seen as a remote dream destination that is hard to get to and even harder to afford. From my experience, this is far from being true.
While the island is famous among resort tourists and honeymooners, it is possible to enjoy the beauty of Mauritius on a budget.
Here I’ll show you what to do and where to go to make the most of your time there with just a backpacker’s budget.
Getting There Cheaply
Since it is a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, flights to Mauritius are often a bit expensive. But, as with everything in the “travel world,” there are ways to save on flights.
When searching for airfares, if a roundtrip from your departing city to Mauritius turns out to be too expensive, consider booking a roundtrip to Seychelles, Reunion, or Madagascar, and from there book another roundtrip to Mauritius using Air Mauritius, Air Seychelles, or Air Austral.
There are many other destination options, but these were among the cheapest I saw when searching around. In my case, I was traveling to all the destinations mentioned above and found an excellent deal to hop around between the islands via Skyscanner.com with Air Austral.
Other great options to save on airfare is to break your flights based on major hubs.
If you’re flying from the US, maybe check for roundtrip flights to a major hub along the way, like Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt, London, and Istanbul, among others; and from there, buy another roundtrip to Mauritius.
Also, try visiting during their low season –May to October– when the weather is cool, dry and sunny, as airlines tend to lower their airfares to lure visitors. You can sign up to Air Mauritius newsletter, the local airline, to stay up to date on airfare deals to Mauritius.
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When To Go
Mauritius has a tropical climate year round, so you can always visit its gorgeous beaches no matter at what time of the year you go there.
Surprisingly, the best time to visit Mauritius is from May to October, during their winter’s low season, which is when they have the best weather – cool, dry, and sunny. During their summer, from November to April, the days tend to be hot and humid.
It is recommended to avoid going there during the wet cyclone season, which goes from January to March and to avoid the east coast in July and August when the wind is at its strongest.
Saving on Accommodation and Where to Stay
While the island is famous for its resorts, luxury hotels, and deluxe villas, there are budget accommodation options all over the island, especially in cities.
I managed to pay an average of $25 a night for a double room with a private bathroom in most local guesthouses. My recommended site to find these budget accommodations at a cheaper rate is TripAdvisor.com.
When it comes to villas and resorts, I have to recommend staying at White Oaks Villas. These villas offer you all the bells and whistles most resorts and villas in the area offer but at an affordable rate.
Since I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Mauritius, I wanted to pamper myself a bit for the weekend, and it was soooooo worth it!
It is located in the north of the island, at Trou aux Biches, which is famous for having many nice beaches around and an excellent environment, overall.
I had a villa for myself, right in front of the beach and steps away from the pool. Their service couldn’t have been any better as they paid attention to every detail and made sure I was having an excellent time there!
And the villas… wow! They are fully equipped, have good wifi, and the beds are so comfy! Nothing like waking up and look at the ocean right in front of you, first thing in the morning. Seriously, that was my Thanksgiving heaven!
Should you want to stay at a villa or resort, try getting the low season rates and trim costs by selecting a room not as close to the beach and without a beach view.
Mauritius is small enough that you can drive from south to north and back in one day, so potentially you could stay in one place and do day trips. For me, it was better to hop and stay in different places to save on gas.
I started in the south in Mahebourg, then moved to Port Louis (the capital city), and then stayed at Trou Aux Biches in the north. Other popular places to stay in are Grand Baie, Flic en Flac, close to Le Morne Mountain, and by Bel Ombre (if you’re looking for really high-end resorts).
Mauritius has a pretty good bus network that will connect you to almost any place on the island for less than a dollar per ride. Yes, it’s that cheap. But, have in mind that this is slow transportation, and it only runs until 6:30 pm in the countryside and 8:00 pm in cities.
Should you like to move around with more flexibility, I would recommend renting a car, which could go for $40+ a day. This was my choice of transportation since I wanted to drive around the island and stop anywhere I wanted to take pictures or just to enjoy the place.
I recommend renting with Car Hire Mauritius as they have some of the cheapest cars available and their vehicles are new and in excellent condition.
I filled my car’s tank about twice in the 10 days I spent there and only spent around $65 on gas.
Alternatively, if you’re not planning on going far, you can hire a bike or scooter to move around. Biking around the island is easy, especially on the north, which is mostly flat. Each major touristy town has its bike rental shop, so you should either google it once there or ask around to find it.
Mauritius is known for being expensive food-wise. In my opinion, that could be true, but what’s also true is that there are so many budget options that eating was quite cheap for me. The island has a big beach culture that is complemented by lots of beach food shacks and food trucks.
Most of them offer cheap local food that ranges from seafood, grilled chicken, Indian food, burgers, and more. A decent plate of street food could cost you as low as $3, but the average would be around $5-$7.
Alternatively, there are fast foods like McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Nando’s, and many more that have similar prices as the ones found in the United States and Europe.
What to See and Where to Go
Luckily, most sights in Mauritius do not require an entrance fee nor a tour to enjoy them, as long as you can reach them by bus or car. If a boat is needed, then you’ll either need to pay for a ferry, if available, or a tour.
This is one of my favorite spots in all Mauritius. You can go hiking up the iconic mountain now declared a UNESCO site. In the early 19th century, slaves who managed to escape their enslavers used the mountain as shelter.
After the abolition of slavery in Mauritius (1835), police officers climbed the mountain to inform the slaves of their freedom. Not knowing the police were coming with good news, many of them jumped to their deaths at the sight of them.
From that moment on, Le Morne became the symbol of slaves’ fight for freedom.
It is a 3.6km hike each way along the slave route to reach the top, and it gets a little tough almost at the end, but it is so worth it. Expect to spend from three to four hours hiking. It’s funny that you can see nearly all Mauritius from up there!
Also, you can see the underwater waterfall, but you will see it from the wrong perspective, so it won’t look as impressive. Hiking the mountain is free, and you do not need a tour guide to reach to the cross almost at the summit of the mountain.
You can go swimming in the Rochester Falls and even jump from the top (only during rainy season as it’s not that deep). This basalt column waterfall might not be tall, but they surely are gorgeous to see. You need a car to reach them as they are far from the main road. Going there is free.
Beaches, beaches, beaches…
There are so many good beaches all around Mauritius, but among my favorites are the beaches west of Le Morne and by Trou Aux Biches. These are all gorgeous white sand beaches where you can relax or swim and snorkel as you wish. All free too!
Black River Gorges National Park
The indigenous forest in the protected Black River Gorges National Park offers over 50km of walking trails among tall trees and dense ferns. While I didn’t do any hiking there, this national park was one of my favorite spots to drive in all the country. Hiking is free.
Hike, hike, hike…
There are so many places where you can go hiking all around the country, but one particular mountain, Le Pouce, is worth hiking if you’re up for a real challenge. This mountain is the third highest peak in Mauritius, peaking at 812m, and the trail is quite steep, especially at the end.
If you don’t have ropes and are not an experienced climber, you will have to stop a bit short and not do the steepest part of the peak. You can do this as a free hike, or you could hire a tour. You can see more hikes here.
Mauritius National Botanical Garden
This garden, located near Port Louis, was originally opened as a private garden by the French governor of Mauritius nearly 300 years ago. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few chill hours in nature.
You can’t miss the capital city, of course! Port Louis’ famous Victorian Central Market is a great place to experience some of the local hustle and bustles of the city.
Now, there are some other paid attractions worth mentioning too.
Ile Aux Cerfs, Other Islands, and Catamaran Trips
Ile Aux Cerfs island is famous for its sandy beach in the middle of an island split. You can reach the island via a ferry from Trou d’Eau Douce, and it costs around $12-$15 each way.
Alternatively, you can take a catamaran to this or any other island around Mauritius as a day trip. Prices vary depending on the catamaran, the island, and type of trip. I recommend checking here for prices and options.
The seven colored grounds of Chamarel and Chamarel Waterfall require a small entrance fee of about $7 for both sights. The waterfall is stunning, and the seven colored ground is pretty much that, a beautifully colored spot of land thanks to the mineral variety found in the soil. Worth a visit.
This is the oldest and biggest tea plantation in Mauritius and also worth visiting. Book a guided walk through the factory to learn about the production and packing process before tasting their delicious tea.
Helicopter Ride around Le Morne
Please, please, please, splurge a bit to do this. It is not cheap, but the ride is soooo worth it.
I paid around $420 for a private 15-minute ride for me and a friend (could be cheaper if you share the helicopter with other tourists) and it took us all around Le Morne, the Underwater Waterfall, Black River Gorge National Park, and the southern beaches.
By the way, this is the only way you can appreciate the Underwater Waterfall from the right perspective, which is why it is worth doing.
What is the Underwater Waterfall, by the way? It’s an optical illusion, not a real underwater waterfall.
As the sand is pushed out of the protected beach area and passes between the reef’s opening, it creates a pattern that when looked from the right perspective, it looks as if there were a waterfall made of sand falling down an underwater canyon.
I used Air Mauritius Helicopters for my tour. Know that you must reserve way ahead of time as this is a very popular attraction. I’d say to book at least a week or two ahead.
There’s much more to do in Mauritius that’ll take me three more posts to cover, but these are some of the highlights that shouldn’t be missed. For more specific beaches and top attractions, you can check the list here on TripAdvisor.
Depending on how much you do, where you stay, and how you move around, you could easily have a daily budget between $40 and $75.
As you can see, Mauritius offers a lot of options to explore it according to your travel style and the flexibility to enjoy its highlights and natural wonders while spending virtually nothing.
Mauritius is not just for honeymooners and luxury travelers; it is also for the adventurous and creative looking to see the world on a small budget.
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